Here at an altitude of 6,000 feet, the aromas of pine trees, sage brush and spent Holland & Holland shells mingle together in the Big Hole Mountains of Idaho where Lars Magnusson has introduced traditional English driven shoots on American soil.
Here at an altitude of 6,000 feet, the aromas of pine trees, sage brush and spent Holland & Holland shells mingle together in the Big Hole Mountains of Idaho where Lars Magnusson has introduced traditional English driven shoots on American soil.
“Do me a favor, Mrs. Lanier, and shut your left eye,” the instructor said. “My left eye?” “Yes” he replied, “When you see the target clearly, shut your left eye and shoot.” After several misses in a row all I could think was yeah right. Obligingly I did what he asked and wham, the target exploded. “Now, just do the same thing for me again.” Wham, the second target broke. Wow, what do you know, two in a row!
Elizabeth Lanier is taking some well-deserved time off. She invited Shotgun Life Editor, Deborah McKown, to contribute a guest column this month.
I was a very unlikely prospect, but Gary Jackson knew better.
The past President of Blackwater Worldwide and ex-Navy SEAL took one look at me and saw my inner commando. It speaks highly of his perceptive powers, because at the time my legs were ready to completely give out from under me, which is how we met in the first place.
Benilli must be the sexiest brand in shotguns today.
Stainless steel, carbon fiber and the jet-fighter silhouette make Benelli semi-autos all the rage. Yet the underlying engineering is the big payoff.
People often ask me how I find the time to shoot in the midst of a very hectic life raising three children, keeping up with the daily responsibilities of living on a farm, teaching and all the other domestic and civic duties we manage to get ourselves into. I’ll tell you how, and more importantly why I make it a priority.
Most people agree that baseball is the all-American sport. But after spending three days in San Antonio, Texas at the National Shooting Complex, I would argue that the sport which best captures the heart and soul of the American spirit is skeet.
Professional baseball has been battered by drug scandals, crass commercialism and outrageous salaries – giving a black eye to the American core values of fair play, self-determination and mutual respect.
By contrast, tournament skeet remains firmly in the stronghold of the shooter who competes for the love of their sport and a burning desire to win fair and square. While these birds certainly don’t have feathers, the hunger is still there to feed that great American quality of redemption – that you can always pick yourself up by the bootstraps to make a comeback target by target. It’s the grit of the individual and their gun forging their own destiny.
While professional baseball now finds itself pulsing through the digital infrastructure onto big-screen TVs and multi-media web sites, skeet holds fast to the ideals of craftsmanship in the hand-finished shotguns that still produce a streak of 500 or more consecutive broken targets.
Although the predecessor to the baseball bat may have helped primitive man fend off sabre-tooth tigers, it is the gun that won the American West – a part of the country I found myself in for three days in March.
As an avid recreational clays shooter, I became immersed in tournament skeet through a remarkable program developed by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) – the sport’s nonprofit governing body.
The NSSA and its sister group, the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA), in conjunction with the state-level associations, keep track of just about every major skeet and sporting clays tournament in the U.S. The NSSA-NSCA is the repository for all registered scores shot in both large and small clubs throughout the country and in the world.
NSSA shooters often enter the realm of tournament skeet through grass roots organizations such as the 4H, which actively promotes skeet competition; through various instructors who want to see a promising student take their skills to the next level; or through local clubs where the NSSA sanctions competitive shoots.
But NSSA member, Stuart Fairbank, saw another way of opening the door of tournament skeet to recreational shooters. It’s called Shoot with the Stars, and it has been held at the annual Toni Rogers Spring Extravaganza, one of the earlier Top 10 shoots in the country that shooters use to open the tournament skeet season for three years. This year it took place March 27-29 at the NSSA-NSCA National Shooting Complex.
Although Stuart says the concept for this type of program had been around for the past 20 years, it was in 2007 that he teamed up with NSSA Secretary/Treasurer, Bob DeFrancesco, to really make it happen.
As Stuart explained it to me in the club house “There were always people who felt that the shooting games were exclusionary. They belong to a home club where they feel comfortable, but in terms of tournament shooting they have a hard time getting started. It can be confusing at first especially when you travel away from home and don’t know anybody at the shoot. And there’s the apprehension associated with meeting, and being squaded with, and competing against the big shooters. We want to make it as easy as possible for the new folks to experience a first-class tournament, meet and shoot with some of the best in the game, and do it all on manageable budget.”
For example, for someone like me who’s managed to shoot his fair share of 25 straight in skeet, it would be an absolutely intimidating proposition to go up against the likes of some of this year’s stars…
Of course registered tournaments do not directly pit the new shooter against these stars, or the other stars who participated in the program including John Shima, Stuart Fairbank and John Herkowitz. A classification system that ranges from top-ranked AAA to E shooters ensures competitive equilibrium. I had been ranked D, given that I had registered for a single tournament skeet shoot in 2007.
Turns out, I was exactly the kind of shooter that Stuart wanted to attract through Shoot with the Stars.
Stuart believed that the sport needed to create “ambassadors,” or recreational skeet shooters who were given the opportunity to mingle with the stars, and then go home and spread the good word.
So in 2007, Stuart and Bob posted the first Shoot with the Stars call on the Internet, attracting three shooters. Over time, a selection process was put in place. The names of up to 27 shooters would be drawn – three from each of the organization’s nine regional zones.
This year there were 15 recipients including myself, since I was the only one to apply from Zone 2.
The 2009 sponsors were Ms. Toni Ann Rogers (Title Sponsor), Federal Ammunition, Browning, Rio Ammunition, Kolar Arms, Remington Arms (.410 bore), Winchester Ammunition (28 gauge), While Flyer targets, leathersmith Al Ange and the NSSA as sponsors.
With sponsors and organization in place, the 2009 Shoot with the Stars gave us newcomers 100 shells in each gauge (12, 20, 28 and .410 bore) for use in the competitions, plus they waived our entry fees in each event of $50 and the nominal target fees that came to $6 per day. The Shoot with the Stars program also provided the experience of a lifetime (for skeet shooters this is tantamount to playing golf with Tiger Woods).
My Shoot with the Stars adventure started when I landed at San Antonio International Airport at about noon on March 26th. After renting a car, I headed directly to Blaser USA in San Antonio, the U.S. arm of the German manufacturer that makes the marvelous F3 shotgun.
Having shot an F3 before, I knew it would be the gun to shoot. Here’s why…
Norbert Haussmann, CEO of Blaser USA, had arranged for me to pick up the perfect 12-gauge model for Shoot with the Stars. It had a Monte Carlo stock complemented by an adjustable comb. The barrels were 30 inches in length. The lid of the hard case held three sets of Briley Revolution tubes in 20 and 28 gauges and .410 bore. Along with a full set of chokes, Blaser packages this F3 as the American Skeet Combo. And I have to say, it is really impressive.
After a Blaser tech tweaked the comb for me, the gun came up just right. If ever I were going to shoot a great game of skeet, this F3 would be the shotgun to make it happen.
Mother Nature, however, had other things in store.
Before leaving for San Antonio, I had checked the weather. It was supposed to be sunny, mild and in the mid-80s. It didn’t exactly turn out that way.
The next morning saw prevailing winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. For a flying disc such as a skeet target, winds that high create crazy turbulence.
Air density, drag coefficient, angle of attack – everything is up for grabs as the wind blew across the open, flat terrain of the National Shooting Center.
If the target is going with the wind, it can race out of the trap house with an afterburner burst, and then get driven into the ground even before it reaches the opposite house.
If the target is going into the wind, it can simply rise and stall – one of the worst things that can happen to a shooter who uses momentum to swing through for the target break.
Then there’s the ongoing debate as to whether or not it’s best to break a target in the wind sooner or later. Some experts believe that you should break the target as soon as possible before the wind knocks it off the line of trajectory. Others, meanwhile, say you should wait until the target adjusts to the wind before pulling the trigger.
All I can say is that conditions were not great to shoot the first event of the tournament, which was doubles (when the high-house and low-house targets are thrown simultaneously).
Of the 45 skeet fields at the National Shooting Complex, I was slotted to shoot on number 9. My squad star would be perennial All American Sam Armstrong from Maryland. At least it was a 12-gauge event (imagine if it was .410).
Introductions and hand shakes all around among the five squad members and we were ready to shoot. During the 100-round event, I was surprised at the ongoing chatter of encouragement. If someone made a great shot, the others shooters in the squad let him know about it. When you stepped up to the station, you were given a pep talk – “You can do it…come on, get in the groove, crush ’em now…”
Turns out it was the unspoken code among tournament skeet shooters. You helped your competitor achieve their fullest potential in the preliminaries and then faced him head on in the shoot-offs. This friendly banter contributed to a real sense of family among the shooters – even for a newcomer like me.
For Sam and the other highly ranked shots, doubles took on a beautiful cadence: BANG…1 Mississippi…BANG. It was the veritable heartbeat of doubles. Consistently, they knew the rhythm of the game and mastered it.
My final score was 57. Not great. It turns out, I made a couple of mistakes when it came to shooting in strong winds, which were explained to me over dinner that night with Sam and his friends at a Saltgrass Steakhouse.
First, by following the school of thought that says you break the targets close to the house in the wind, I held the Blaser further back than usual. The gun swung so beautifully, I figured it would be no problem nailing that target right out of the house before the wind could grab it.
I found out afterwards that you do just the opposite when shooting in the wind. You hold further toward the center stake. By reducing your gun swing, you stand a better of chance of breaking the target as it slows down, as opposed to attempting to shoot it when it comes accelerating out of the house.
Another mistake I made was shooting the target when it stalled in the wind. For example, if I were shooting the low 1, and it stalled right in front of me, I ended up missing the target. I was wondering how was that was possible? After all, the target was stopped dead; it was close enough to be hanging right off the brim of the cap. How the heck could I possibly miss that target?
The answer was simple: I had unconsciously lifted my face off the stock to look at the unusually high targets. Break that seal between your cheek and the stock and you’ll miss the target every time – even if the bird is dangling three feet in front of you.
My third mistake was trying to measure the target lead in the wind. If you look for the lead, you invariably take your eyes off the target – or worse end up glancing at the front bead. Either way, the target will get away from you.
OK, lessons learned. But would they stick? Let’s see how I would shoot the next day.
Right after the alarm clock went off, I checked the weather on my iPhone. Wind was blowing at 15 mph, with gusts reaching 23 mph. Certainly challenging, but not as daunting as the day before.
When I arrived at the National Shooting Complex that morning, one word dominated the communal conversation: wind. One of the stars confided later that he had not missed a single 12-gauge target since August 2006 – until doubles the day before when he shot a 98.
Other top shooters said “the wind got to me.” What did they mean by that? A strong, relentless wind can make you tense your muscles, slowing you down. Likewise, a sense of exhaustion sets in, both physically and mentally. Unlike them, I never expected to shoot 100 straight, often the threshold for entering the shoot-offs. While a 97 or a 98 would be great for me, it was unacceptable in the rarefied ranks of AAA skeet champs.
I had two events scheduled for that Saturday. I would shoot 12 gauge at 10:30 and 28 gauge at 3:00. I was optimistic. At least 12 gauge gave me the firepower for a wider margin of error in the wind. When it came to 28 gauge, I’d been shooting it for the past year at my local club. I think it’s the perfect gauge for skeet, and I had recently nailed my first 25 straight in 28 gauge.
Stuart Fairbank, a multiple World Champion from Connecticut, turned out to be the star of our 12-gauge squad. An affable guy, he really kept up the chatter – giving the squad a positive vibe through all 100 rounds. My final tally for the event was 81. I have to give ample credit to the Blaser for what I thought was a good score. It performed flawlessly, giving me great site pictures, a controlled swing and a comfortable shooting experience.
With a few hours remaining until the 28-gauge event, I paid a visit to the NSSA-NSCA Museum on the grounds. The museum included a history of skeet with wonderful artifacts. There were Hall of Fame Photos for both skeet and sporting clays and some entertaining videos to watch.
After the Museum, I walked across to the concession and ordered a tasty pulled-pork sandwich. I took the sandwich onto the patio and watched the other events as I ate.
At about 1:30, I installed the 28-gauge tubes from the trunk of my rental car. They went in like butter. After I shot two practice rounds, I knew 28-gauge would be intimidating.
Everyone says that regardless of the gauge, you always shoot the target the same way. Keep your hold points and break points consistent, whether it’s 12 gauge or .410. However, here’s the rub: A standard 12-gauge 1-1/8 oz shell with #9 shot holds about 658 pellets. A standard ¾ oz, 28-gauge shell with #9 shot has about 439 pellets – or nearly 50% fewer pellets. For the highly ranked shooters, the lower pellet count wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But I needed all the help I could get as the sundowner wind started to kick up, fulfilling the prediction of 23-mph gusts. In the end, I shot a 67.
My 28-gauge star was multiple World Championship winner Billy Williams from Montana, the only one of two shooters to score perfect 100’s in doubles the day before. Throughout the event, Billy was a master of encouragement, leading the squad in a chorus of positive banter. Even with my less-than-stellar 67, it was a joy to shoot in that squad. By now, I was starting to feel like an NSSA son-in-law.
That night, the Party on the Hill was held in the massive Beretta Pavilion. A Mariachi band entertained as free Mexican food, cocktails and beer from a keg were served. From this vantage point, you could look down across the great expanse of the National Shooting Complex and the Hill Country Beyond. It was a clays shooting paradise.
Sunday morning saw me slotted for two events. At noon, I would shoot 20 gauge with star, Bob DeFrancesco, NSSA Secretary/Treasurer and many time All American from Connecticut. My .410 event would take place at 4:30 with star, Dave Starrett, another multiple World Champion winner from Ohio. The weather was a hold-over from the day before: 14-mph winds, gusting to 25 mph. In the 20-gauge event, I scored a respectable 75. My score for .410 score came in at 63.
What did I walk away with from my Shoot with the Stars experience?
For one thing, I learned that Stuart was absolutely right about the experts who volunteered as this year’s stars. Every one of them was approachable, supportive and basically just a really nice person. Second, it rekindled my desire to shoot registered skeet at my local club. I discovered that the competition simply makes you shoot better. You keep a razor-sharp focus on the targets, you pay more attention to foot placement at each station and you shot the birds more aggressively – breaking them sooner. Finally, I learned valuable skills that I could apply just when I’m hanging out and shooting skeet with friends.
Tournament skeet is not for every shooter. But sometimes you just don’t know until you give it a try. Based on my experience, I would urge any skeet shooter to give tournament shooting a test drive. Join the NSSA and find a club near you that holds registered shoots.
In the end, I had only one regret about my trip to San Antonio: it was having to return the Blaser F3. That shotgun sure was a keeper.
Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your letters and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A venue for traditional wingshooting will soon open, tailored specifically for women – and it’s about time.
Called the Ladies Shooting Syndicate, it’s the brainchild of Blixt & Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Ladies Shooting Syndicate is by membership only. It organizes splendid shooting trips to luxurious destinations for like-minded women. In effect, Blixt & Co. has transported the Golden Age of Shooting into the 20th century for women with adventurous sensibilities.
My Afternoon With Olympian George Quigley
Written by Rick Robinson
Author, part-time fisherman and lousy shot
The picture which the folks at Shotgun Life have used to introduce me to you ought to tell you something. All the people profiled in this fine publication are pictured holding their favorite shotguns. My profile picture has me holding up a beautiful lake trout which I caught on the Niagara River cutting the border between New York and Canada.
What that has to do with clay shooting is what my story is all about.
Fishing (or at the least brackish lake water associated with it) is in my family’s blood. My dad had hunted when he was a young man, but by the time I was born he was afflicted with horrible arthritis. So, instead of hunting, he taught me how to shore fish at a young age. On my mom’s side, I had an uncle for which fishing was his life. Just to be able to fish on a daily basis, he spent his twilight living with a Seminole Indian tribe in the Everglades.
So, fishing is one of my sports of preference. Although, the way I fish, calling it a sport is an insult to sportsmen everywhere. I spend more time choosing my cigar for the day than I do choosing my lures. Quite honestly, it’s the quiet and solitude which I enjoy about fishing. Catching a fish is a side benefit.
One of my regular fishing companions, Lytle Thomas, mistook my love of fishing for being an all inclusive outdoor sportsman. Lytle spends his weekends hunting things with and without a pulse.
“I’m running a charity sporting clays shoot next week at Elk Creek,” Lytle said excitedly to me one day. “I signed you up to shoot in my fivesome.”
“I haven’t shot since elementary school,” I replied, hoping that would end the conversation.
“Yeah, I know,” he persisted. “You told me about it. Remember? You won a shotgun for breaking clay pigeons. It’s like riding a bike. You’ll be fine.”
Lytle was only half right. My bragging was catching up with me. My dad had taken me to a youth shooter’s safety clinic when I was a kid. After a lecture from a local 4-H volunteer on safety (don’t ever point a gun at anyone except your calculus teacher), everyone got a turn at the range. Clays were going to be thrown out for us to shoot. The prize for the most clays hit, winner take all, was the shotgun we were using. I missed the first one and then hit all that were served up. My dad was proud (although I do remember overhearing him explain to my mom that I had my eyes closed on each shot).
Dad had visions of some kid in my class with buckshot marks on his face from me trying to shoot rats along the river banks and convinced me to trade the shot gun to a neighbor for a baseball bat and glove or something. Dad was a smart man.
“Anyway, it’s a celebrity shoot,” Lytle snapped me back to reality. “Our celebrity is George Quigley.”
I gulped. I knew just enough about clays to understand that George Quigley was an Olympic shooter. But the thought of spending an afternoon with any athlete who is the best in his sport intrigued me. I accepted the invitation.
“Great,” Lytle exclaimed and told me the real reason for the invite. “My boss is also in our group and he sucks. I put you on my team so that he’ll have someone to beat.”
George Quigley is a legend around my community. He is one of the best known ambassadors of shooting in the world. He and his dad are both nationally ranked. George, Jr. was on the United States Olympic Skeet team which finished 6th in the 1996 Games in Atlanta. He won a gold medal at the 1994 World championships in Cairo.
On the day of the celebrity sporting clays event, I showed up at Elk Creek Hunt Club in Owen County, Kentucky – the home of this year’s US Open. Lytle had loaned me a 12 gauge Beretta 682 Gold E to use for the day. In the parking lot he told me that it was bored and ported to reduce recoil and declared that I was going to use 1 ounce loads of number 8 shot rather than the standard 1 and 1/8th ounce loads.
I pursed my lips and nodded a knowledgeable nod. I had no earthly idea what he was talking about. I took the gun anyway.
After a quick refresher on gun safety in the pro shop where we watched a Dick Cheney speech, I headed to the course.
I looked for Quigley, but didn’t have to really search the crowd. At 6’5″ and around 250 lbs. he stood out. And, he was the only guy at the practice range who was actually shooting. Everyone else was just standing around watching him. “Pull,” he’d shout and two clays would fly out. He’d shoot twice and both clays would explode. “Dead Pair,” he’d say as the crowd applauded.
I decided to wait to introduce myself.
I showed up at our first station. All the men in my group (including Lytle’s boss) were dressed in gear appropriate for a shooting event – ammo vest, shirts with padded shoulders, and orange hats. Suddenly my ensemble of a Bass Pro Shop baseball cap and “Fishermen do it With a Lure” tee-shirt didn’t seem like such a good choice. These guys were serious.
I retreated to what I normally do when I’m intimidated – I became a smartass.
“This clay pigeon thing sounds like fun,” I said approaching the Olympian Quigley with my hand extended. “I hear they are good eatin’ when grilled.”
Lytle shot me a WTF look.
Quigley just stared at me. “Oh God, he’s pissed,” I though to myself. “I’ve just insulted the king and his own sport. This is not a good start to the day.”
Then, Quigley smiled a rather sly grin. “They’re a lot more tender if you boil them first.”
He was as nice of a guy as everyone had said.
I stepped onto the shooting platform, took my first two shots and missed both targets.
Quigley stood behind me shaking his head. He gave a quick beginners lesson on how to balance my feet and gave me a better way to position my shotgun on my shoulder.
“And your eyes,” he said.
“Yeah?” I responded.
“Try opening them.”
What the hell? It had worked the last time.
As I proceeded to each successive station, my shots inched closer and closer to a target. Although I have to admit, I didn’t particularly care if I ever hit a clay. Learning to shoot was one thing. Learning to shoot under the tutelage of George Quigley was quite another. I was watching one of the best and from a very close range.
What was remarkable about George Quigley was the zen-like manner in which he zeroed in on his intended targets. I make jokes about me shooting with my eyes closed, but George’s approach to shooting was just that. He didn’t shoot with his eyes. He shot with feeling. He and the gun were one unit. He didn’t need his eyes. He shot by pure instinct.
George Quigley hit 99 clays out of 100 on that hot summer day. His only miss was a clay that was thrown from behind him. I swear that the shot went past my head as a warning that I better start trying harder. George said it didn’t come anywhere near me. Just to make sure, I started paying closer attention (and standing closer to Lytle).
I feared that George had visions that the president of the National Sporting Clays Association was waiting for him in the pro shop. Being an ambassador of the sport is one thing. But encouraging someone like me to enter the sport was enough for the Association to ban him from competition.
Whether a result of George’s stellar lessons or pure dumb luck, with a few stations left, I suddenly got the hang of it. He was right; you don’t shoot with your eyes. It’s all feel. Each time I hit a clay, Quigley would boldly declare “Dead Pair.”
Suddenly with one station left, I found myself tied with Lytle’s boss. I had the distinct possibility of not being the worst shooter in the match. Lytle glared at me. His whole point of inviting me was to lose to his boss. Quigley, knowing why I had been invited, winked at me. I went 5 for 5.
Rick Robinson is an attorney with the law firm of Graydon Head & Ritchey, LLP in Northern Kentucky and the author of political thrillers. His debut title, The Maximum Contribution, was named a Finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book of the Year for political fiction and earned an Honorable Mention at the Hollywood Book Festival. The sequel, Sniper Bid, was released on Election Day and opened on Amazon’s top seller list of political thrillers at #46. He is published by Publisher Page, an imprint of Headline Books. He can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com.
A WOMAN’S APPROACH TO SHOOTING FOR FUN AND FRIENDSHIP
Written by Elizabeth Lanier
PULL – What can I say? It is my favorite four-letter word. Why, you might ask? Well, it’s the word used to release a clay target, but what it really turns loose is more fun than you can possibly imagine.
From the moment I step into a shooting box and put two shells in my gun, I cannot help but feel a huge surge of adrenaline and anticipation. As I close the shotgun and prepare to say “that word”, I have to smile and be thankful for the serendipitous journey that has led me to love saying “PULL,” and beyond.
Several years ago I gave my husband a gift certificate for shooting lessons. He was already a rifle shooter, and occasionally an upland bird hunter, so I thought a lesson aimed at the clay target disciplines would be a fun gift for him. I went along the day he was supposed to take the first lesson, ended up shooting with him, and I loved it.
Between carpooling three children around, after school activities and keeping up with home and family obligations, I managed to squeeze in (and steal) his remaining shooting lessons.
Somewhere between the love of pulling the trigger, the desire to succeed, and introducing new shooters to this sport, I realized that it was the “why” of the misses and not the “where” that really mattered.
It was the realization of the importance of good first experiences that compelled me to become an instructor. To know that when I was guiding them through their first attempts with a shotgun, that I was setting them up for success.
When I was initially approached about discussing women’s shotgunning and the pros and cons we face, I was not sure if I could bring any new and novel approaches to shooting. The more I thought back on my own progression in this sport, both as a shooter and now as an NSCA Certified Shooting Instructor of men, women and children, I realized what I could do was be a voice of advocacy and assurance for recreational women shooters through my own experiences.
I stress recreational. The women shooters who are proficient competition shooters already know the fun and fulfillment of shooting. They know the skills and intense mental focus required to compete. No doubt it was the pure pleasure of starting as recreational shooters that compelled them to hone those skills.
I believe there are many, many women who, given the proper introduction to the shotgun sports, would not only love this sport, but excel in it as well. So I say if you have thought about it, why not give it a try?
I know, I know…..what do women think of when they hear someone say “shotguns” or “shooting”? They think of a man’s sport, heavy guns, loud noises, camouflage clothing and killing Bambi or Donald Duck. It does not have to be any of that.
As a female shooter I think of the fun and excitement I experience every time I pull the trigger. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I hear the bang and see a clay break.
For women who have family members wanting them to shoot or women who just want to try it, I encourage you to seek out a qualified instructor who will guide you through the learning process, paying careful attention to your eye dominance, good form and proper gun placement in the shoulder. They will know the right gauge gun and the best shell to use for the first lessons.
Many well intended people have introduced women and children to shooting with a favorite old hunting gun and perhaps some left over shells from a duck or goose hunt. “It’s easy, just point and shoot”. Trust me, this is not the best way to get started.
If you have started shooting and are looking for fellow shooters, don’t be afraid to go to a nearby shooting range. I have met many wonderful people in the shooting world at nearby gun clubs.
I met another female shooter, now a friend, at a pheasant shoot. After a brief conversation about finding other women to shoot with occasionally, we exchanged numbers on the only paper we had, shot gun shell box tops, and agreed to meet and shoot. I told her it would be fun to try and get other women shooters to join us and try to shoot on a regular basis. We both knew of a few women who shot with their husbands or kids, or had maybe hunted with their father or grandfather in their lives, so we called them to join us. Before you knew it, we had a women’s shooting group.
We now have about 25 members. We have housewives, garden club members, doctors, lawyers, artists, as well as a pilot and teacher. It is a fun loving, diverse group of women who have gone from shooting once a month to occasional 2 day excursions planned around shooting courses, shopping and all the shenanigans that go along with it all……fun shooting, good gear and great dinners, all topped off with a whole lot of laughs. Every now and then we even let our husbands join us.
Like I said, why not give it a whole hearted try? Whether a beginner or more experienced shooter, there is always merit in good instruction and learning to shoot better and better by building your shooting inventory….to me that includes getting the gear but we will talk about that later.
Women communicate. They will convey their feelings if they are anxious or excited. They are gatherers. They like to understand and replicate instructions and often learn much more by visual demonstrations that just an explanation.
Stay with Shotgun Life….soon we will talk about how we gather information, process it and incorporate it into building that shooting inventory we are talking about. We will also discuss trying to find good “girl” gear, starting women’s shooting groups, shooting and shopping adventures and more. Whew….so much to cover, so little space……….stay tuned.
Elizabeth Lanier is an NSCA Level I instructor based in Virginia. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Every week, she will update her monthly column by selecting one question and post both the question and answer to her column so that all her readers can benefit.
Question for March 2009:
Hi, Ms. Lanier,
I just recently read your article and like the way you think! Look forward to reading your future articles. I haven’t been shooting very long and would like to know what your opinion is on which choke I should use in Sporting Clays for an over-under gun? I shoot just for fun and camaraderie.
Thanks for your interest and I’m glad to hear you have taken up shooting.
In response to your question about chokes, I will just briefly tell you how they work first. A shotgun choke is a constriction at the end of the barrel of the gun. It tightens the shot string of the pellets just before they leave the barrel. I had an instructor give the analogy that the choke worked much like the nozzle on the end of a garden hose. The more open it is, the more open the spray is as it leaves the hose; and the tighter it is, the further the stream goes before opening up.
The most open choke is a cylinder. Then you have skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full chokes. And, to confuse you more, there are choke tubes sizes between many of those.
You stated you are a beginning shooter so I would suggest using skeet chokes in both barrels to begin with, or a skeet choke in the bottom barrel and an improved cylinder in the top as you improve. These chokes work well with light loads such as 7/8 oz. to 1 oz. with number 8 shot.
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